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Posts Made By: Charles Stevenson

April 2, 2015 05:22 PM Forum: Digital SLR AstroPhotography

Magic Lantern plus Backyard EOS (Canon 6D)

Posted By Charles Stevenson

Anyone running Magic Latern (ML) firmware on their Canon coupled with Backyard EOS? The ML FAQ says that it "runs from the card, as an add-on over standard firmware. You will still be able to access all Canon functionality." I'm assuming that means they play nicely together...

I picked up a used Canon 6D with a few wide angle and fish eye lenses. Looking into doing the Astronomik clear glass mod described by Gary Honis and getting the various clip-filters to make it a three purpose camera. Original white balance (OWB) for family photos, IR-pass for infrared, and one of the filters for astrophotography. It looks like if I'm imaging through the C8 without any lenses that I wouldn't need the UV+IR filter since it doesn't suffer from chromatic aberration.

Any tips on getting into DSLR would be much appreciated. I also picked up an AC adapter that clicks in where the battery usually goes and a double ball head clamp on mount and various accouterments. $$$ Thankfully the wife is VERY supportive and is just as fascinated... she hasn't had much chance to look through the scope and is living vicariously through the photos.

April 13, 2015 07:01 PM Forum: Digital SLR AstroPhotography

Second Light

Posted By Charles Stevenson

Saturday was my first attempt at DSLR astrophotography. I've had the unmodified Canon 6d DSLR camera about a week now and finally we had some clear skies. First light setup was a breeze. After getting so used to the Atik 16IC's very small sensor this is a dream. It used to take me awhile to find things on my chip and with such a large format it's visible every time. I used the trial version of BackYard EOS (BYE) for the session and am running the Magic Lantern firmware hack.

I didn't end up realizing there were more settings that ought to have been adjusted and the subs didn't come out so well. After a little reading I found a nice PDF on the Canon website that enumerates all of the settings one should consider.

Second light was last night (Sunday). I was able to take some decent subs capturing M81 and M82 on the same frame (another very exciting moment!). I have a really noticeable vignetting that seems to stem from the baffle tube on my Celestron C8. Does that sound like the culprit? I have a 2" focuser and camera adapter and think they're wide enough. I'm not sure if there's an Eye Opener for Celestron?

Anyways, I also took a shot at the whirlpool (just picking easy objects). The whirlpool seemed pretty successful. I feel like I could mess around with it in DSS and Photoshop forever and never quite get it just right. I'm fairly happy with this version (attached).

The most exciting thing of all is that I was able to sit outside last night in only a sweater. Almost all of the snow has melted! Gone are the days of long underwear, snow suit, fleece, goose down, hats, gloves, 3 pairs of socks, etc... New challenges await that I've no idea how they'll go. Will birds land on the scope when it's running unattended around dawn? How about bugs? What about dew? I've read so much on dew heaters but haven't had a drop of it since getting started...

April 24, 2015 07:37 AM Forum: Digital SLR AstroPhotography

First try capturing the Leo Triplets

Posted By Charles Stevenson

Inspired by Rolando's Spring galaxy season post and photo, I decided to try and find the triplets myself. Thankfully, the GoTo mount took me directly to them. Still getting the hang of DSLR. The closer to the edges of the CMOS the less round my stars appear. Any idea how to fix the stars on the edges or keep this type of distortion from happening?

The image train was Celestron C8-A XLT, Celestron f/6.3 reducer/corrector, William Optics 2" focuser, Baader 2" nosepiece to Canon lens mount, and an unmodified Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera. Roughly an hour worth of 300s exposures stacked in Deep Sky Stacker. I took the bias and flats manually and am wondering if anyone has advice on this subject. At first, I had horrible results in DSS with deep blue gradients at the edges of the frame and a massive red orange circle in the center fading out and mixing with the blue at the corners of the frame.

May 5, 2015 05:43 PM Forum: Digital SLR AstroPhotography

First attempt at Jupiter with DSLR

Posted By Charles Stevenson

First attempt at planetary with the Canon EOS 6D DSLR last night. It was just something I did on a whim. Initially, I had setup the scope for visual while the kids ran around in the yard. They took a few glimpses of Jupiter while the sky was still quite blue and were nonplussed and continued their chase.

On a whim I decided to attached the camera hastily. I would normally have attempted Backyard EOS with the camera connected to the laptop. In this case, I simply popped off the camera lens and attached the 1.25” nosepiece to the DSLR. I added a Celestron 1.25” 3x barlow for magnification. This was inserted into the WO focuser on my Celestron C8-A XLT. I hadn’t bothered to align or calibrate (rough polar align).

I didn’t give much thought to the in-camera settings since this was a hasty experiment. I changed to video mode, ISO 100 since Jupiter is very bright, Auto Lighting Optimizer to Standard, AWB, AdobeRGB, Picture Style Faithful, Movie Recording Size 1920x1080, 30fps, High Comp IPB (next time will set low compression!).

I would line up Jupiter in the center of the camera’s LCD and press record. Chase the kids around the yard and then I noticed it had wandered off the screen would recenter and try again. I had some difficulty focusing as it seemed the weight of the camera was pulling the focus off when I loosened the screw enough to make fine corrections. Eventually I got it somewhat close by using the magnifying glass feature on the camera for a 10x zoom.

This morning I downloaded PIPP and am absolutely blow away at how much better my stacks are after running the video file through it. A side benefit is that it can crunch the camera produced video files and output an Autostakkert!2–friendly AVI. Beginning with PIPP, I used almost entirely the default settings with a few exceptions. From there into AutoStakkert!2 and finally into Adobe Photoshop CS6.

An exciting start! I'm hoping to get a few more goes at Jupiter while it's still very high in the sky. I caught one of the moons, as it was disappearing I believe, around the edge of the planet. From the tiny dancing white ball on the video to this result was startling to me. I can see the GRS for the first time through my own equipment! :-) I made at least one big mistake which was using compression in the video.

Anyone else done planetary imaging with their DSLR?

May 20, 2015 11:02 AM Forum: Digital SLR AstroPhotography

M81 & M82: The feminine and the masculine

Posted By Charles Stevenson

I took this shot in mid-April. A few guys in my imaging group helped me reduce the noise and spruce it up a bit. Hope you like it! :-)

Full res:

May 28, 2015 10:46 AM Forum: Digital SLR AstroPhotography


Posted By Charles Stevenson

Still getting the hang of things. Stars aren't perfectly round. I would love to see this with the naked eye through a telescope. Didn't have much luck...

June 1, 2015 12:17 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

Sweet $3 find at the flea market

Posted By Charles Stevenson

In the 9 years I've lived in MA, I'd never been to Rietta Flea Market in Hubbardston. We headed over Sunday morning with the kids and had fun perusing the junk. I came across a pile of old cameras that sparked my interest.

There was a milk crate filled with discarded vintage cameras. I dug around without anything really looking too interesting. Then I noticed a lens on the guys table among rusty tools and other debris. Half of its case was missing and it was real dirty and looked like it had seen better days. When I took a closer look I noticed it was a reflector.

The primary mirror coating has been etched away by fungus (see photo) here and there due to neglect. Anyways, thinking of some conversations with our local mirror making guru I figured I'd pick it up and maybe it he could tell me how to fix it up.

I talked the seller down to $3.00. When I got home I managed to hook it up to my Canon EOS 6D by rigging my Baader Planetarium T-adapter. It actually takes nice photos! I took it mostly apart and cleaned the corrector plate. The corrector plate and secondary mirror are mint (there was a hard lens cap in place). The primary is the only thing that seems in rough shape. Is there any merit in re-coating the primary as a learning experience?

I read somewhere that coatings can get eaten away by fungus. I don't know if it's etched the primary glass too.

The lens is a compact Spiratone 500mm f/8 mirror lens (no. 5319802) made in Japan. It has a T-thread adapter and can focus 15 ft to a fair amount past infinity. Collimation seems perfect. I've actually grown pretty fond of it! :-)

An almost identical model of the lens is described here:

See the black patterns all around the outer edge of the primary. Any thoughts? I heard cold cream could remove the fungus patterns.

June 6, 2015 11:09 AM Forum: Pictures of Me and My Telescope and........

Top of the line astrophotography laptop

Posted By Charles Stevenson

Ok... needed a little humor after all these cloudy rainy skies of late... feast your eyes on the top of the line astrophotography laptop (not yet released to the public). Actually, just sort of wondering what everyone is currently using for their setup(s). Here's mine as of today:

Heavy-duty tripod, Celestron CG5 GEM GOTO mount w/polar scope, 33lbs counterweight, Celestron C8 Fastar/Hyperstar-ready 8" SCT, William Optics 2" digital display focuser with builtin thermometer, Celestron XCel 3x Barlow, Baader T-adapter, Canon EOS 6d, Celestorn LER 6x30 finder, Celestron 80mm guidescope and mounting rings reinforced w 1" aluminum tubing & hose clamps, Baader C-mount adapter, double ball head (temporary), Spiratone 500mm catadioptric mirror lens, Xagyl 5 position USB motorized filter wheel, C-mount adapted with a second Basler A102f mono FireWire camera, cabling, SkySync GPS, NexStar hand controller w/serial interface to my top of the line high performance laptop (see photo wink

June 7, 2015 02:02 AM Forum: Beginning Astronomy?

First Light at The Field

Posted By Charles Stevenson

I had never ventured beyond the house and its glorious AC current and warm interior with refrigerator and snacks... tonight after astronomy club I ventured off to join another guy at The Field which our club rents from the Boy Scouts. It's not too far from my house but has a much better unobstructed view in all directions.

I ran into all sorts of issues with power. My Canon EOS 6D didn't like running off the cigarette lighter plus inverter so I ended up going back to battery. Likewise when I had the laptop and all cameras and mount going off the car lighter I ran into issues. Everything would reset periodically so eventually I unplugged the laptop and let it run off battery.

At least I was able to help my fellow solve a device driver issue with his Orion guide camera. Here's a shot of me and the gear. Wife is in the car reading a book. Either I discovered a comet or there was a lens flare from the moon. Probably a flare lol... The milky way looking bit is actually car exhaust. Laptop ran out of battery and it was cold cold cold so I packed up and headed home. All good.

June 8, 2015 05:15 PM Forum: Astro Binoculars

New Old Bushnell Ensign 7x50s

Posted By Charles Stevenson

I picked up my first pair of binoculars over the weekend. They're Bushnell Ensign 7x50s made by Bausch & Lomb in the late 80s. They were brand new and in the original packaging with all the original papers etc. The strap had never been put on. Wonder where they went for the last two decades?

I had read online that 7x50s are good for astro as they're light enough to be held steady and have good exit pupil. I also read another review that covered these specific binos. The author said he slightly preferred the Bushnell Sportviews to the Bushnell Ensigns but I imagine the differences are too much.

These are fully coated with magnesium floride and have locked in porro prisms and a decent field of view. I'm looking forward to trying them out when we get a clear night. I looked through them today and they're so bright I almost wanted sunglasses. I haven't seen anything this clear in years. I normally wear contact lenses and sometimes glasses. I guess I'm now wondering what the world would look like with excellent eyes.

What are good targets for 7x50 binos?